Weather: Over 100 schools closed as winter returns

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MORE than 100 schools were closed and a number of roads blocked as wintry blizzards swept the east coast yesterday.

• 54 schools closed in Aberdeenshire, including 5 secondaries

Overnight ploughing on the M8 at 4am this morning. Picture: Transport Scotland

Overnight ploughing on the M8 at 4am this morning. Picture: Transport Scotland

• Further 49 hit by school transport problems

• 22 primaries were closed in West Lothian, one in East Lothian and 16 in the Borders

Aberdeenshire, Angus, Tayside, Fife, the Lothians and the Borders were hardest hit as heavy overnight snow, whipped by high winds, led to whiteout conditions in many areas during the morning rush hour.

Plunging temperatures last night were expected to increase the risk of icy surfaces on many routes today and the Met Office is warning that, after a brief respite, more snow is on its way for Friday and Saturday.

In Aberdeenshire, 54 schools were closed to pupils, including five secondary schools. Another 49 primaries and secondaries were hit by transport problems.

Three primaries in Moray were closed due to the adverse weather and eight primaries in Angus were also shut to pupils. One primary in Aberdeen was closed, as were two primaries in Perth and Kinross.

Twenty-two primaries were closed in West Lothian, one in East Lothian and 16 in the Borders where Hawick High School was only open to S4 to S6 pupils.

Jedburgh Grammar was only open to S1 and S2 pupils while S3 to S6 pupils were told to work from home.

One of the worst affected routes was the A697 in the Borders where 20 lorries and four cars were stuck in the snow for almost six hours, two miles north of Greenlaw. The stranded drivers found temporary shelter as they waited for snowploughs to clear the route between Greenlaw and Carfraemill.

Gritting crews from the Borders to Moray were working flat-out to keep main routes open. But Scotland’s three main ski centres at CairnGorm, the Lecht and Glenshee were forced to close when access roads became blocked by snow.

Two major visitor attractions in the north-east owned by the National Trust for Scotland – Castle Fraser and Crathes Castle – also had to be closed due to the worsening Arctic conditions.

Flights at Aberdeen airport were unaffected, but a spokesman for First Aberdeen said there had been some delays to bus services in the city.

A Tayside Police spokesman appealed to motorists to take care on the region’s roads. He said: “Before travelling anywhere, drivers should check the weather forecast, be equipped with warm clothes, food and a torch just in case. Tune in to travel information and leave plenty of time for your journey.”

Charlie Powell, a Met Office spokesman, said that up to 10cm (four inches) of fresh snow had fallen overnight. But he warned that plunging temperatures overnight would pose the greatest risk to motorists as they head to work this morning.

He said: “We have got a brief respite on Wednesday and Thursday before we see windy conditions and snow returning on Friday – almost a rerun of what we have had today. And it will last into Saturday before conditions start to ease. We are not out of the woods yet.”

An Aberdeen City Council spokeswoman said gritting teams would be back on the roads with further snow forecast.

She said: “A forecast of strong winds and sub-zero air and road-surface temperatures mean that some surfaces are likely to be icy. Gritters will be working through the night and the dayshift crews will take over at 4:30am. Efforts will be concentrated on the priority routes.”

Meanwhile, despite the plummeting temperatures, experts at Edinburgh Zoo remain unconcerned that the cold snap will affect its pandas as their breeding season fast approaches.

A spokeswoman for the zoo said: “Pandas aren’t affected by temperature in terms of their breeding season. Pandas’ breeding seasons are dictated by light levels – it’s these external levels of light that trigger their hormones.”

The forecast

TODAY: Any overnight snowfalls will start to ease by morning. The winds will ease during the day but there will still be some light snowfalls, particularly on the east coast. There will also be some sunshine.

TOMORROW: Overnight there will be lows of -6C to -7C in north-east Scotland. It will remain colder during the day, but will generally be dry and fine with some brightness.

FRIDAY: Winds coming in from the south-east will start dragging in some cold air, turning to snow as the front reaches Scotland in the early hours. The snowy and windy conditions, again primarily affecting eastern Scotland, will last into Saturday before conditions start to ease.